If I had been listening to live radio this morning, I would have had warning about the fire blocking Boronia Rd and the overturned truck blocking Springvale Rd and I would have gotten to work an hour early. Instead, I was listening “on the pod” to an old Religion Report, in which mine host, Stephen Crittenden, was reviewing the Pope’s trip to America–all reduced to one topic: the Sexual Abuse Crisis and the Pope’s apologies.
He was interviewing Yankee priest Tom Doyle, who has been something of a campaigner in the States for those who have have experienced sexual abuse by priests. Any way, what got me thinking was this comment by Doyle on bishops who have actually responded pastorally to the crisis:
There have been some bishops in this country who are really good, and there’ve been bishops in your country who’ve been outstanding, and one of them is going to be coming over here, Bishop Geoff Robinson, who has been prophetic.
Which is the real tragedy of the Bishop Robinson situation. Even his brother bishops noted in their statement on his book that they
are grateful for the contribution Bishop Robinson has made to the life of the Church… [and] are deeply indebted to him for his years of effort to bring help and healing to those who have suffered sexual abuse and for what he has done to establish protocols of professional standards for Church personnel in this area.
So why did he go and muck it up by putting all that other nonsense in his book? Why didn’t he simply stick to calling for justice for those who had been abused?
If it is right to hold priests to account for physically abusing the little ones in their charge, then it is also right to have the courage hold bishops to account–even though they may be otherwise deeply caring and loving pastors–if they spread doubts about the truth of the Church’s faith. It would be better for both kinds of abusers (and their victims) if they had millstones tied around their necks and were thrown into the sea (Luke 17:2).
You see, I could not help but wonder what the reaction of Fr Tom Doyle OP would be to hear that our Australian bishops have censured Robinson’s book. He would, no doubt, interpret it as the “boys club” closing ranks against one that has dared to hold them to account for the sexual abuse that has gone on under their noses. But many people (including Stephen Crittenden) have no concept of the enormity of the abuse that bishops commit when, despite all the love and care in the world, they betray their vows and the trust of their people by leading their flock astray from the Faith of the Church.
This is real, spiritual abuse. I contend that it is just as serious and just as harmful as sexual abuse. You will think I am overstating it. But only if it is not your faith and your spiritual life that is being abused. Those who have suffered under the spiritual abuse of false shepherds know what I am talking about. I know that no court, no support group, and certainly no radio station will ever hold a bishop accountable to his vows to faithfully teach the Gospel in accordance with the faith of the Church, but we should.